If you follow me on social media you’re probably wondering what my recent obsession with intu Trafford Centre is all about. Well as you are well aware, these fasts are loooong and they have been for a few years now. Energy levels are low and sometimes you just need everything to be right there in front of you.

Enter intu Trafford Centre.

Wide variety of shops, restaurants, home ware, entertainment all under one roof with free parking and fab interiors thrown in. Oh and its a ten minute drive from home. So basically, it happens to be mine and Mo’s hangout if we don’t fancy the rain and parking rates in the city.

I’ve always been a big fan of the centre – even though I hate shopping! I like all the really unusual things about it, like a) its always super clean, b) the staff are always really nice and c) I love the palm trees, they’re huge!!

As a foodie, there’s plenty to eat (that deserves attention some other time) but right now I thought I’d share my yearly trip on the hunt for Eid things. I figured on the run up to Christmas when everyone’s advertising all their amazing gift sets I always do a post of my favourites, so why have I not done one for Eid???

Ok so lets be honest, it’s a bit late for most online shops right now and if you’re like me you work much better under pressure. So I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds if you’re looking for an extra special Eid gift:

 

1. Notebooks and Quote card sets from Kikki K

 

 

Most bloggers I know love notebooks. Combine said product with inspirational quotes and boom you’ve found the perfect gift. Kikki K is a brand I was introduced to by a friend a couple of years ago and I’ve visited their store in Covent Garden when I can to stock up on supplies. One of my favourite products of theirs are the quote cards, I keep one on my desk at all times to brighten up my day. Now to my joy there is a Kikki K concession in Selfridges and the new stuff is fab! Anything from this range would make a good gift for any writer, planner, traveller or blogger (basically me).

prices start from £12.00 for the quote cards 
Kikki K is concession in Selfridges

 

2. White & Light H-Box from Hotel Chocolat

 

 

I know. This is a bizarre one to throw in and it’s not travel related. AND I don’t even really like chocolate – BUT I love the white chocolate box from Hotel Chocolat. Even though we were fasting, we like to waft temptation in front of ourselves every so often. So we walked in to look for Mo’s favourite treat box (I owed him one for turning up late) Max showed us the amazing Eid sleeves. Loved them! And the store have created a whole section specifically for Eid – where all the chocolates advertised were vegetarian friendly and no traces of alcohol. Very impressed!!! And what a great gift!!!!

Prices start from £12.50 for White & Light box pictured above
Eid Mubarak sleeve is complimentary

 

3. Countdown to Eid Calendar from the Body Shop

 

 

Now I’m no beauty blogger, but I’m always on the lookout for products which are good to the environment and animal testing free. Oh and ones that are a bargain. So this here is my top beauty product tip (brace yourselves you won’t get many of these from me). Not only does the countdown to Eid calendar look AMAZING but it’s incredibly good value too! There’s a wide collection of products tucked behind the doors, including some of my favourites such as black musk body lotion and mango lip butter. And for all of us regular travellers, none of the bottles are larger than 100ml, perfect for packing away whatever your baggage restriction may be.

Eid calendar is £80, (contents inside worth £155!)
Other gift sets are also available

 

4. Greyfriars Garden Backpack from Radley

 

 

All the backpacks I usually travel with are more outdoor type ones. I’ve always wanted to find myself a good looking equivalent that isn’t too small or too big, but one that would make a good handbag replacement for a city break. This one by Radley, Greyfriars Garden backpack, is simple, great size, comfortable to wear and a zip to secure. Not only are there pockets inside, but there’s also a secret little back pocket for those important bits you need to keep extra safe. Radley are also doing a personalisation offer at the moment where you can personalise a tag to go with it.

Greyfriars Garden Backpack £199
Tag personalisation is free for orders over £75

 

5. Personalised Perfume from Selfridges

 

 

With Mo being a perfume buff, no occasion is usually complete without a perfume purchase. So of course we were drawn into the Selfridges perfume counter whilst we were there. Mo has a great nose for smells and I asked him to pick out a few of his favourite Eid fragrances. He went straight to the Dior range to show me Oud Ispahan, a woody oriental style fragrance. He also recommended a number of bottles from the Francis Kurkdjian range. Amyris is one that he has his eye on, another one with woody undertones but with quite a light feel. Pop by and give them a smell! Added bonus, if you buy any perfume from the store you can take advantage of the free engraving too.

Oud Ispahan by Dior £200 for 125ml
Francis Kurkdjian Amyris £130 for 75ml
Fragrance bottle engraving complimentary when you purchase a perfume

 

6. Garment Cases from Muji

 

 

Ok this last ones more of a practical gift, but it’s so necessary! At the start of the year I trialled out the world of packing cubes and frankly I will never look back. They are amazing!!! They keep everything organised, make it easy to find what you need, lightweight and just, well necessary. I don’t know how I ever coped without them?? These ones from Muji are even more amazing as they fold up into little packets so you can store them away when you don’t need them. Muji is a really great stop for travel essentials, from suitcases to travel bottles, they’ve got everything you can think of.

Small, Medium and Large sizes available, in a variety of colours
Prices start at £5.95

 

And if all else fails…

Gift Card!! And of course this year they’ve created an amazing new Eid Mubarak sleeve with artwork from the talented contemporary Islamic artist, Siddiqa Juma:

 

 

(Thank you to the lovely Nicola in customer services for showing it off 🙂 )

 

There’s so much more available, but these were my favourite finds.  Of course traditionally it’s nice to wear something new on Eid and intu Trafford Centre is by no means short of clothing shops! Let me know what you find or where you like to go for Eid… Not long to go now!

Click here to access the full intu Trafford Centre Eid guide

 

 

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Last summer, I wrote a very brief holiday post on how being unprepared for our Spanish adventure, actually ended up being more relaxing than if we had been prepared. As I scrolled through posts on Spanish food snacks during last week’s #tapasday hashtag, I realised I hadn’t actually written anything at all about what we ended up doing.

There had been so much happening with both Mo and I in the lead up to going away we hadn’t even had a chance to register that our holiday was creeping up. The fact that we actually made it to the airport on time with any form of luggage was probably down to sheer luck more than anything else.

I remember us both falling into our plane seats and just exhaling huge sighs of relief that we were both there. This was going to be a multi-stop trip, starting with Madrid where we had planned to stay for the weekend before driving down to the beaches on the south coast of Spain.

So, the plan was to have no plan. We were just going to wander the streets and see where the ebb and flow of the city took us.

Usually, this would fill me with immense sadness. Anxiety. Distress. I suffer from serious FOMO (fear of missing out) especially when traveling and never like to visit a destination only to miss out on some of the most famous sights.

But this time I strangely didn’t care. It was so refreshing to throw the guide book out the window and think on the spot about what we wanted to do. I’m such a control freak, I regularly put Mo through lists and schedules when it comes to every day life, I think taking this planning time-out was a refreshing break for him too (I’m sure he’d be nodding furiously if he read this).

Surprisingly, we got through a fair bit more than we expected to:

 

Museo del Prado:

We came across the Museo del Prado and took the opportunity to explore some classical art, especially the work of the infamous Francisco Goya, one of the most celebrated Spanish painters of the 18th century.

 

 

Gran Via:

Perfect for shopping, window browsing or architecture admiring.

 

 

 

Buen Retiro Park:

My favourite part of the whole entire weekend was Retiro park. After strolling through the shaded tree-lined paths we stopped to enjoy lunch outside in a café overlooking the lake. After filling up on Spanish snacks, we spent time taking it in turns to row up and down the lake, soaking in the sun, having a laugh, enjoying the music from the buskers. There was such a great atmosphere and not having anything else planned meant we had nothing else on our minds and all the time in the world.

 

 

Palacio de Cristal:

There was a lovely exhibition on inside the crystal palace which was interesting, all about old school visual equipment. Such a great use of the space.

 

 

Madrid Atocha Railway Station:

If you get a chance, go have a nosy inside, a rainforest type treat awaits!

 

 

Puerta de Alcala:

 

 

There are so many beautiful buildings in Madrid, I could have happily walked round for hours just admiring them. We walked down the Gran Via all the way towards Banco Espana and back to the other side by the palaces too. We covered as much ground as we could on foot, stopping for tea and coffee along the way.

 

Plaza Mayor:

I loved stopping here for a snack and a drink in the sunshine. The restaurants were brimming with customers and the street entertainers were out in full force.

 

 

Plaza de Cibeles:

Love anywhere that makes statements as bold as this #refugeeswelcome

 

 

Mercado de San Miguel:

The food here was incredible! more on that later…

 

 

Fountain of Neptune:

He is there I assure you.

 

 

Plaza de la Villa:

 

 

Statue of the bear and the Strawberry tree:

Sorry bear, I realise this isn’t a very flattering angle. He was a lot smaller than I expected him to be.

 

 

Royal Palace of Madrid:

 

 

Recalling our trip back, I just realised I told a bit of a lie. We did have one thing pre-planned! It was a flamenco show at Corral de la Moreria. Watching dance is something Mo and I both love so when we first booked the trip Mo made sure to find the best traditional show in town. I highly recommend it! The venue takes you back in time to the original tablao flamenco. So popular with locals and tourists, I definitely advise booking in advance.

 

 

Of course this type of holiday doesn’t always work, especially if you’re not travelling solo. Luckily Mo and I were both feeling the same way so we didn’t have to deal with that annoying indecisiveness when the other has no clue what to do.

 

Some tips:

  • Keep some kind of map handy, one of those free tourist one’s are great as they helps you keep to the popular areas where you’ll be sure to find something to do, should you wish to of course. We also used google maps, but only whilst trying to navigate ourselves home or if we were looking for halal places to eat.

 

  • If there are a few things you have in mind that you want to do at some point, but don’t want to be tied down – always check the opening times. Some places close on certain days or have varied opening hours.

 

  • If you’re hungry – just eat! Don’t go walking around thinking you’ll find something better. If you’ve not planned anything it’s always best to just go for whats around you at the time. Keep walking around you could be making the situation worse and if one of you suffers from hangriness it’s not ideal.

 

 

 

Are you a planner? Or do you prefer to wing it on holiday?

 

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We’ve just passed the halfway mark of Ramadhan! If you’ve been fasting, I think you definitely deserve a pat on the back. I know I’m certainly chuffed I’ve managed to make it so far this year without too much whingeing, very unlike me but I am trying my best to keep my cool.

I’ve got a few bits and pieces I’d like to share which may seem a bit random but I’m in an offload kind of mood. Things that I’ve been thinking about, stuff coming up and also just a general update:

 

First of all…

Still time to enter your #idealiftar for a chance to win a £100 intu Trafford Centre Gift card!

A competition not exclusive to Muslims, I’m simply asking you to share what your #idealiftar (meal) would be. I’ve had loads of great entries on twitter and Instagram already, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites so far:

 

 

I’ve been lucky enough to share a number of wonderful iftar meals over the last two weeks, even an extra special one with a non-Muslim friend who decided to give fasting a go that day (she did amazing!).

 

 

The competition is running up until the 22nd June so snap those pics and send through your ideas – there’s a hundred pounds at stake here!!!

 

(click here if you want to read the full competition info)

 

Ramadhan update:

Earlier this month I wrote a post explaining exactly why we fast and why this month is so important to us. Many people look at Ramadhan like an esteemed passing guest, one that has chosen to enter our homes and we are expected to be on our best behaviour. I also mentioned in my last post that this was the month in which the Quran, our Holy Book, was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him)

It is believed that this important moment occurred in the last ten days of Ramadhan. The night it happened is called ‘Laylat Ul Qadr’ an Arabic phrase that loosely translates to ‘Night of Power.’

In the Quran, we are told that worship on this night is better than 1,000 nights of worship, the angels descend upon the earth and it is the ultimate time to ask for forgiveness, for mercy and for blessings.

Of course the beauty of this blessed night is that no-one knows exactly when it is! The date itself was never revealed, all we know is that it occurs at some point in the last ten days of the month. Most Muslims believe that there is a high probability that it falls on one of the odd nights, i.e. the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th etc.

It’s a night like no other and is the reason why most people ramp up their prayers and try to dedicate as much time as possible to worship, this can be quite hard as energy levels start to fade as we start nearing the end!

But needs must, it only comes around once a year and with the state of the world these days we have a lot of peace to pray for 😉

 

What’s coming up?

Well the last half is not just the most precious spiritually, it’s also the most testing. Some people find it flies, others find it drags… it always varies for me. But by this point most food reserves have been burned off and exhaustion can start to set in.

Either way, I’m looking forward to savouring the last moments of this holy month and of course excited to start preparing for Eid too!!

Across America, even here in Manchester, this weekend saw a number of organisations out on the streets protesting – mainly against Muslims. But what these people didn’t expect is that love is always the most triumphant power of all and counter protests were quick to assemble and in most cases completely outnumbered the hate-preachers.

As a Muslim, knowing that there are so many people out there who are willing to stand up for us is comforting. And that goes for companies and governments too. My (very obvious) love for Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters stems for their belief in equality and looking out for everyone, no matter who they are. And when better to show Muslims support than Eid.

London draws on its strength of community and plays host to a fantastic Eid celebration right in the heart of the city. On the 2nd of July Trafalgar Square will host their annual Eid Festival.  Theres a main stage, stalls, food carts and much more as everyone is invited to celebrate this special time of year.

Up here in Manchester, our very own intu Trafford Centre has decided to show they are also ready to celebrate, and have organised a celebration of their own. Whether you’re Muslim or not.. get involved! Come and see the shows, the drummers, the Bollywood harpist (!?!) get a henna tattoo… Mo and I will definitely be checking it out so come join us!

 

 

I am so excited that people are starting to acknowledge our celebrations, the way they have with others such as Chinese New Year, Diwali and Christmas.

I remember a conversation with the lovely Emaan, marketing and events manager at Scene in Spinningfields, where she was telling me about her upbringing in Trinidad. One thing that always resonated with me was when she said one of her favourite things about growing up there was that everyone in the community made the effort to celebrate each other’s religions, cultures and festivals. Each person proud to show off their heritage and what makes them different.

I love that we can do that here too and I love even more that this time of year I can share mine!

 

 

What have you got planned for Eid? Are there any other Eid events you can recommend? Or perhaps you celebrate some other way? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

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I had a really fun post originally planned for this Travel Linkup, one that celebrated and showed off my home town. But with everything that has been happening in the world, I scrapped it (gosh I do this a lot).

I was Annoyed. Frustrated. Angry. Not really sure how I felt about the word ‘home’.

I’ve mentioned before I didn’t grow up here, I’ve moved a number of times in my lifetime and there is never just one place that feels like home.

Saudi Arabia is one, although my love for the country itself has deteriorated completely. As my eyes are opened more and more (I’ve got big eyes, it takes a bit of time) I’ve stopped defending the country for it’s ways and I can no longer relate to their obvious interest in greed – judging by the latest farce of entertaining POTUS and the issues emerging with Qatar.

BUT, despite this, it will always feel like home.

Where my parents live? Is that home? It’s in a town I lived in after moving back to the UK. My parents’ home will always be home I suppose but the town itself, it’s not really a place where I would live or have real affinity too.

So Manchester then?

Well, it’s a town I labelled as home the last time we discussed this topic, but recently I’ve begun to wonder… is this the place??? Tony Walsh sure thinks it is and I feel a huge connection here but… is it what springs to mind when I think of the word home?

I recently read Tanja’s post on what home means to her, and it was Munchkin her cat. I totally agreed. I love travelling more than anything but coming home to my cat is always an exciting part of any journey.

So could home be where the cat is for me too?

Nope.

I know exactly what it is now, it’s a bit mushy but hey, I can’t help it sometimes.
Home is definitely where all my favourite people (and animals) are.

So basically everywhere.

Literally everywhere.

Going on holiday I cannot count the number of times Mo and I have said ‘we could live here’ – and you know what we could! We could live anywhere, we’ve got homes all over the world. Homes are places where you feel happy, safe not necessarily a physical structure.

I’ve been up to my mum and dad’s a couple of times these last few weeks and everything about being in their ‘home’ makes me smile. The smell of the towels, the way they arrange their cupboards, the drawer where my dad hides his pens… everything about it is so ‘them’ and that’s why it feels like home.

The same when I’m at my sister’s, or with our friends, our neighbours…

It’s all about the people. That’s the real home.

And hey, maybe that’s why I feel the strongest, and have stayed the longest in Manchester.

As you must’ve seen and heard on the news by now, Mancs are pretty s*%$ hot amazing.

 

Three of the images above are credit to Manchester Evening News – a publication that provides brilliant coverage of all things Manchester

 

As my day job continues to test my positive outlook on life I’m glad I took a moment to define what’s really important, and with an all important election coming up I hope people remember that life isn’t all about money, bricks and mortar.

It’s about looking after the people who make up our homes, wherever they may be.

 

 

This months Travel linkup is about Home and there are some great posts! Check them out on the link up widget found on Follow Your Sunshine, SilverSpoon London, Adventures of a London Kiwi or guest host Ngaire at Kiwi Footprints.

 

What does home mean to you?

 

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suri manchester

 

I had seen a lot of talk banded around on social media about this place called Suri. I knew it was a restaurant, I knew it was on King Street… but that was pretty much all I knew. If I were to hazard a guess, I thought it could be some kind of sushi bar and I assumed it would comprise of an over the top setting and priced quite high.

Well I was totally wrong, first of all there is no sushi here (Lord knows where I made that assumption from?!?). The cuisine served is actually a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, though unfortunately not halal. The name Suri is actually the Persian word for rose.

The restaurant from the outside it’s quite a modest looking outfit. Inside, ooh the interiors are delightful. They’ve not gone for traditional or contemporary and boring plain. Instead, using a palette of creams, they’ve created an elegant dining space, with touches of marble, bare bulbs and plush leathers.

We were here to sample the new seasonal express menu, a reasonably priced meal at £15 per person for three dishes from the menu. Although the meat wasn’t halal, there was still plenty for us to choose from. Of course, a new place means trying new things, so we ordered a selection from across the menu and asked for them in stages – all of the below, apart from the dessert were from the express menu.

Actually, before we got cracking on exploring the menu, we grazed on some Persian spiced bread, made fresh on site. I can’t fault the bread in any way but what I can say is that the dip it came with, a sort of red pepper and chickpea smash was like no dip we’ve had before. It was so good we actually asked for another bowl to enjoy with the rest of the meal. Beth, our waitress, pointed out that all the dips were made fresh and vary from time to time, and they were firm favourites amongst staff too. Always a good sign.

 

To start:

Chickpea kibbeh with spiced yoghurt, Roasted cauliflower with tahini and ajvar and the Suri summer salad.

Chickpeas in kibbeh? delightful. I normally find kibbeh has quite a coarse texture but chickpea and root vegetable combination was much smoother in texture and the spiced yoghurt, was tangy and moreish.

Cauliflower really isn’t my favourite vegetable, I usually only like it in a curry. The dish here surprised me though, spiced and baked there was a punch of flavour in every floret. The Suri summer salad, in all honesty didn’t look like much, but don’t be fooled. Salad may be all about leaves, but the dressing on this is divine.

To fill up:

Hanout prawns with smashed avocado, Josper’d aubergine with citrus yoghurt, herby spuds and za’tar fries.

The hanout prawns were good, I’d get them again – although I would say they weren’t a real stand out dish. I’m glad we ordered them, they hit the spot perfectly. Though I can’t think of a taste or flavour that stands out. All I can say is that prawns and crushed avocado are a match made in heaven.

Now the aubergine, was very pleasing on my palate. Fresh pomegranate topping and laced with za’tar and sumac, my favourite flavour combinations all in one dish. Za’tar is such an underrated spice here, I doubt many people use it, but growing up in Saudi, it was a one we ate regularly. It’s so nice to see so many dishes utilising it here at Suri, even the za’tar fries worked well, the chili giving it a slight kick should you choose to eat it.

To finish off:

We chose three to try: Suri strawberries; preserved lemon curd with red berry rocks and the cardamom vanilla cream.

We chose dessert options from the ‘enjoy’ part of the menu, and enjoy we did. Lemon curd mousse was sharp but not too sour, the panna cotta was perfectly set and the gingernuts made for a perfect accompaniment. Keeping it separate was nice as we could add a little bit to every bite (probably not the idea but it worked well for us).

I have to say though Beth’s recommendation of Suri strawberries was the winner. Fresh and delightful, it was, as the saying goes, like summer in a bowl. I can imagine popping in on a warm day, sitting outside on one of their lovely café tables, indulging in a Margarita glass of Suri strawberries.

Gosh what a fantastic surprise Suri was. For a luxurious, reasonably priced meal out this is definitely hitting the top of my list. I was really happy to experience a meal that was spicy and rich in flavour, without being overpowered by chilli. It was really refreshing, and to enjoy such a meal in such comfortable surroundings made for a great meal out.

Oh and I really should point out the service here was just as exceptional. Beth was a great host for the evening. It was a nice change to be at a King Street restaurant and have a waitress who came across as quite personable. Her recommendations were spot on, and gauging from our reactions to certain dishes, gave us a bit of background on how they’re made or where the inspiration of them came from.

Poor Mo was not impressed he couldn’t join us, so I look forward to visiting again and experimenting with some more of their menu. The main menu has aptly named sections such as fields, farm, waves… unusual but to the point. (I’ve got my eye on the Josper honey’d salmon with avocado).

Just like its Persian floral namesake Suri has all the right elements; hint of sharp flavours, plenty of variety and both the food and venue are beautiful to look at.

*** Thank you to Suri for inviting us to sample the menu and thank you to Beth for recommending all the right things. Of course all opinions and thoughts on this review are my honest opinion and have not been influenced in any way ***

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